But here’s the kicker- The Institute also performed some low-speed crash tests on an older vehicle for comparison. The 1981 Ford Escort aced the 3 mph corner tests with zero damage and had, by far, the lowest repair costs with front corner and rear corner crashes producing no damage. Costs to repair the front accident was only $86, while the rear collision repair bill came to $383... Posted by Dani
-Continued: Click “Read More…” below for the official press release and analytical costs
PRESS RELEASE: First results of new crash tests: most car bumpers don't work in low-speed crashes; 3 cars sustain $4,500 damage in 6 mph test while old Ford Escort sustains little damage
Only 3 midsize cars among 17 the Institute tested — the Mitsubishi Galant, Toyota Camry, and Mazda 6 — withstood 4 bumper tests with $1,500 damage or less in each test. Some cars sustained more than $4,500 damage in just 1 of the 4 tests, and 2 cars rang up more than $9,000 total damage.
"Our tests measure how well bumpers protect cars from damage in everyday bumps," says Institute president Adrian Lund. "The whole purpose of bumpers is to keep damage away from headlights, hoods, and other parts that are expensive to repair, but this purpose was accomplished in only 2 of the 68 tests we conducted. In the rest, what we found is that bumpers aren't up to the job."
The new tests reflect the kinds of front and rear impacts that are common in the real world. Insurance claims of $4,500 or less for damage in these crashes total more than $6 billion each year.
Old versus new bumper tests: The Institute began conducting low-speed crash tests at 5 mph into a flat barrier in 1969. These tests led to the first federal bumper rules for cars, which required the bumpers to resist damage in impacts up to 5 mph. These requirements eventually were rolled back by the Reagan Administration in 1982. But recent research shows that some of the most costly low-speed crash damage occurs when vehicle bumpers slide under or over each other. This happens because the bumpers on colliding vehicles don't line up, and braking before the impact can lower the front end of a striking vehicle just before it hits the other vehicle. Under- and override often result in damage to vehicle grilles, headlights, hoods, and fenders.
The Institute's old flat-barrier tests were good indicators of bumper strength, but they didn't assess over- or underride. Vehicles with comparatively good performances in these tests still sustained costly damage in real collisions. The Institute's new series of tests comes closer to matching the damage that occurs in real-world impacts. Each car is run into a barrier designed to mimic the design of a car bumper. The steel barrier's plastic absorber and flexible cover simulate typical cars' energy absorbers and plastic bumper covers.
The four tests include front and rear full-width impacts at 6 mph and front and rear corner impacts at 3 mph. The barrier is 18 inches off the ground in the full-width tests and 16 inches from ground in the corner impacts. These heights are designed to drive bumper improvements and lead to better protection from damage in a range of real-world crashes. In developmental tests, these configurations produced the kinds and amounts of damage that commonly occur in low-speed collisions.
"We don't want the automakers to change bumper heights just to get good performance in our tests,"
Bumpers still poorly designed: Many bumpers aren't high enough or tall enough to take the hit in crashes between cars and SUVs or pickups. Even when bumpers line up with those on other vehicles reasonably well, many don't stay engaged with the other bumpers in collisions or can't absorb the energy of even a minor bump. This means expensive car body parts sustain most of the damage.
"The cars with the lowest repair bills after our new bumper tests still sustained much more damage than they should have in some of the tests,"
The full-front test represents a common situation where a car hits the rear of another vehicle that has stopped in traffic. In this test, the bumpers on only four cars — the Galant, Camry, Mazda 6, and Saturn AURA — stayed engaged with the test barrier instead of going under or over it. The result was lower damage totals than other cars in the same test. Damage to 3 of these 4 cars totaled less than $1,000, and the AURA was the only car among the 17 tested to limit damage to the bumper itself in the full-front test without getting into the car body.
"This test should be easy if cars had well-designed bumpers because the energy of the crash can be spread across the whole front of the car. Instead some cars sustained more damage in this test than the other three,"
"A big problem is that the Maxima, G6, and Passat underrode the barrier,"
Results were similar in the rear tests. Reducing the damage required the bumpers to engage the barrier and absorb the energy of the impact, but this mostly didn't happen. A relatively good performer in the full-rear test was the Hyundai Sonata. Its bumper did engage the barrier, and most of the damage was limited to the bumper (minor repair of the rear body panel also was required). Total damage came to $739.
Good bumper performance requires not only engagement with the test barrier but also strength sufficient to absorb the energy of a low-speed crash. Hyundai engineers strengthened the Sonata's bumper after learning about the Institute's upcoming series of new tests.
In contrast to the Sonata, the bumpers on other cars did slide under the barrier, and damage was much worse. The Chrysler Sebring, Nissan Altima, Volkswagen Jetta, and AURA sustained more than $3,000 damage apiece in the full-rear test.
"The bumpers on the Altima and Sebring didn't stay engaged with the barrier at all. The bumper bars on these two cars escaped unscathed,"
All parts don't cost the same: The total cost to fix damage after a minor bump is influenced by more than the extent of the damage. Another issue is that the price of the same part — a fender, hood, or other part — varies from vehicle to vehicle. For example, the Toyota Camry needed a lot of repairs after the full-rear test, including repair of fenders and body panels. The trunk floor and unibody structure had to be straightened out. However, the total cost of these repairs was a relatively low $1,480, in part because Camry parts don't cost as much as those on some other cars.
Besides the cost of damage in low-speed collisions, there's the aggravation. Most people want to avoid having to get repair estimates, arrange for repairs, and then do without their cars while they're in the shop.
"Much of this could be avoided if car bumpers were better at doing their job of resisting damage,"
Styling influences performance: The performances of three cars show how front-end styling can influence the amount and cost of damage that occurs in low-speed crashes. The AURA, G6, and
Corners left unprotected: The bars that are part of most bumper systems often fail to extend far enough into vehicle corners. The result is a failure to protect vital and costly parts such as lights and fenders.
"Headlight assemblies on all 17 cars were damaged in the corner impacts,"
The width of the bumper bars was a factor in rear-corner tests too. While the Honda Accord sustained about $600 damage in this test, damage to the Mazda 6 totaled twice as much. The difference was that the Accord's bumper bar is nearly 80 percent as wide as the car, while the Mazda 6's is only 58 percent as wide.
Vintage Ford shows how: Bumpers used to do a better job of resisting damage in minor impacts. Under federal requirements that were in effect until 1982, car bumpers had to keep damage away from vehicle safety equipment and sheet metal parts in collisions at speeds up to 5 mph. Even damage to the bumpers themselves was limited. But since 1982 the test speed under the federal standard has been cut in half. It's now 2.5 mph, and unlimited damage is allowed to vehicles' bumper systems.
To demonstrate how this rollback has affected bumper performance, the Institute got a 1981 Ford Escort, which met the old requirements, and put it through a new battery of front and rear bumper tests. Comparison of this car's performance with those of new cars is dramatic.
For one thing, the bumpers on the Escort extend out from the car body to help keep the headlights, grille, and sheet metal away from the energy of impacts. Behind the bumper bar, the Escort has components that work like shock absorbers to dissipate the energy of an impact before it can damage the car body — and these components can absorb energy again in subsequent collisions, while the crushable energy absorbers that are components of most modern car bumpers can't. They have to be replaced after each minor impact.
"The Escort aced the 3 mph corner tests with zero damage,"
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